MNL48 – First Rabbit
Despite having a rocky start to their journey as idols, MNL48 have impressed fans this year with their own cover-tracks of popular 48 songs, and First Rabbit is one of my favourites from the Year Gone By. Simple in structure, easy to remember and cute in every possible way, this is a well done cover that will win over most MNL48 fans, and possibly impress those who remember the original release of First Rabbit.
26 ji no Masquerade – Nanairo no Tsunami
Though a physical release is not the easiest to obtain for this group, this is easily one of my favourite tracks from the year. With its pleasant arrangement, soft vocals and pleasing instrumental, the simple song is one that aims to relax the listener with a spring-like sound and sweet approach.
=LOVE – Want you! Want you!
One of a fair few songs that followed this cute K-pop structure throughout the year, =LOVE’s Want you! Want you! Was a much-needed change of pace from the dark and enticing realm of Teokure Caution. Airy, cute and upbeat, this colourful release matches the energetic and fun side of =LOVE. The lyrics are equally entertaining to sing along to, and the little adlibs are a fun addition to an already entertaining track.
Greg/#1 Chief Rocka
Sekai no Owari x EPIK HIGH – Sleeping Beauty
This song features a collaboration between Japanese Pop band Sekai no Owari and South Korean Hip-Hop group EPIK HIGH. It seems like an odd combination but both groups styles mesh extremely well resulting in a sweet love song with a cute animated video to match.
BAND-MAID – Secret Maiko Lips
An April Fools joke taken to the limit turns BAND-MAID’s secret My lips into secret MAIKO lips. This version adds a bit of traditional Japanese instrumentation to the groups hard rocking sound. Usually BAND-MAID are fairly serious in their vids and their turn as BAND-MAIKO allowed them to let loose a little bit while dressed up as geisha.
Fairies – Hey Hey ~Light Me Up~
Fairies’ only 2018 single release is a song with a Eurobeat club sound and is most notable for its late 1990’s Para Para choreography. Some may find it a bit cheesy but those with a fondness for that type of music and/or dance style should appreciate their attempt at standing out among the many idol groups out there at the moment.
Hannah Lee / Angry Daenjangnyuh
IZ*ONE – La Vie en Rose
K-pop debuts always tend to be very high budget and super focused, so it should come as no surprise in the year being dubbed as “Hallyu rush 2.0” I would choose the biggest debut as one of my favorites. Honorable mentions are BLACKPINK Du-du-du-du, Momoland’s BAAM, AKB48’s Teacher Teacher, and Morning Musume ‘18’s 自由な国だから ‘Because its a Free Country’ (literally, their best single since March 2017 – guess that quasi-kpop strategy paid off)
DA PUMP – USA
What would I even call this song? Meme of the year? 地下芸 (chikagei) theme song for 2018, the year of the eventer? You can’t discuss 2018 in Japanese music without this song. And on that note…
Uesaka Sumire – POP TEAM EPIC
Since about 2015 I’ve expected idol music to disappear from the mainstream (hasn’t happened, thanks Keyakizaka and based Akimoto Yasushi quality!!!) to be taken over by either J-rock (i.e., Hoshino Gen, Yonezu Kenshi) or anime. It seems I was right on both accounts – J-rock has absolutely exploded this year, with acts like Back Number, Aimyon and Yonezu absolutely crushing any charts they can find, and anime reaching untold proportions that haven’t been thinkable since the height of the Pokemon boom.
That being said, it certainly felt as if anime was much more in the foreground than any other act, save for K-pop. Ignoring things like Goku joining the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (?!?!), anime was absolutely everywhere on the internet with multi-day festival lives all over the world and throughout Japan. Aniuta, a streaming service that started in 2017, launched in the US, groups like Aqours and Touken Ranbu are infiltrating even the mainstream… Who knows what next year will bring? The first cyber idol at Kouhaku?
Allen – The Dirty DD
H.I.N.P. – Rumor
Hannah took my top song with IZ*ONE La Vie en Rose, so I chose the 2nd most popular song from this season’s Produce series. Even with the rotation of girls performing the song after the initial introduction, the dance is alluring and makes any girl who does it look amazing. The moombathon trap mix makes this more memorable than any of the other concept songs during the season as it was the higher ranking song being streamed on all platforms and continues to be popular among online dancer videos.
Red Velvet – Bad Boy
Had to have a slow jam to my list and Bad Boy just fits the bill. Plenty of people that I knew that were already into K-Pop couldn’t go a night without talking about Red Velvet. R&B jam complete with girl crush attitude from one of the most popular girl groups in Korea right now.
TWICE – What Is Love?
As I mentioned in my Year End Report, I’ve been a secret filthy casual fan of TWICE for a while now and their popularity has been rocket strapped to new heights. What Is Love is a pretty visual video that you can show anyone of any age and they will find something to like, same for the actual song as it’s light, fluffy, and catchy as hell.
TOZ / No. 2
Bruno Mars – Finesse (Remix) feat. Cardi B
I remember thinking in the beginning of 2018 that Cardi B wanted to use her momentum from her massive 2017 to take over 2018, and this was the first step. Well at the end of the year, I would say that she has.
IU – BBIBBI
Sounds like that bubblegum pop I like, but with IU firing off warning shots, lyrically.
BoA – One Shot, Two Shot
It stayed in my rotation for the whole year.